This Is the Most Common Regret People Have, According to Science

Dacy Knight

Nothing eats away at a person quite like regret. It's for that reason that we do as much as is in our power to avoid it. When we look back at our lives, we want to appreciate all the experiences we enjoyed, not dwell on the decisions we wish we could do over. More often than not, we're more disappointed by what we didn't do than what we did.

Inc. recently highlighted a surprising finding on the subject made by researchers at Northwestern University. Neal Roese, a psychologist and marketing professor at the Kellogg School of Management and author of If Only: How to Turn Regret Into Opportunity, is one of the top scientists studying regret. He and his team analyzed 11 different regret-ranking studies to deduce the biggest regrets people have in life. They found that the top regrets center around large life components like career, romance, and parenting. Topping the list of most popular regrets? Education.

According to the researchers, education comes in first because it's something you can "fix" regardless of your age or circumstances. While you can't always win back a lost love or raise your kids again, you can go back to school. This means that the sense of regret surrounding education is multi-layered. If you regret something regarding your past education—not finishing college or not pursuing that master's program when you were younger—you also experience the present regret of not taking the initiative to do it right now.

The solution is simple: Keep improving yourself. Even if you're not able to drop everything and go back to school, you can find ways to acquire skills you missed out on by enrolling in night classes or independently studying up on the subject. Continued education can be more of an attitude than a student status, so if education is your biggest life regret, approach every day as an opportunity to learn.

Surprised by this finding? Share your thoughts with us, as well as any tips for how your handle regret.

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